Social Media · Technology

My Response to Andrew Keen’s “Cult of the Amateur: How the Internet is Killing Our Culture”

Photo Courtesy of Find the Conversation

Andrew Keen is an author, Internet critic, and the author of Cult of the Amateur: How the Internet is Killing Our Culture. He has very strong opinions of journalism, social media, and the outlook of both. I personally do not agree with all of his opinions, but I believe he raises valid questions and allows for a good argument or two. He is very one sided on a lot of matters which can come off as arrogant, but he seems to feel he knows what he is talking about.

Andrew Keen predicts that blogs corrupt and confuse society’s opinions on everything from commerce, arts, culture and politics. I am neutral to this, I think that some blogs can have more influence on people’s opinions, but I am not sure how they are corrupting them. I understand where he is coming from on the confusion part, because, after all, anyone can post just about anything online, which can cause a clouded picture of reality. Everyone has their own opinions, and bloggers will voice it. This could have a negative effect on journalism because it all will come down to what source is more credible and least biased. Readers are going to have to weed through the different blogs and news sites to find what they believe to be true.

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Photo Courtesy of Idea Over

Keen also calls citizen journalists “a pajama army of mostly anonymous, self-referential writers who exist not to report news but to spread gossip, sensationalize political scandal, display embarrassing photos of public figures, and link to stories on imaginative topics such as UFO sightings and 9/11 conspiracy figures.” I have to semi-agree with Keen. I feel like there are more journalists who are focusing on the gossips, rumors, and scandals going about rather than stating the hard facts. I think journalism has become more influenced by personal opinions. The purpose of a journalist is to seek and report the truth, not cloud it with biased opinions.

I have to disagree with Keen’s take on social networking sites. I do not believe they are “an infestation of anonymous sexual predators and pedophiles.” I agree that they play a role in self-promotion, but as for the sexual predators and pedophiles, I do not think that is their main role. Keen even said himself that, “As mainstream media cracks up, the only way to build a brand successfully is to use a service like Twitter.” Journalists can use Twitter and Facebook to get their articles noticed, to build a fan base, gather a following, and build their reputation—and in turn their credibility. I think social media is the future for journalism. Everyone is plugged in now a days and it’s time for news to go social.

Keen and I agree on one major thing; Wikipedia is “perpetuating the cycle of misinformation and ignorance.” I think that people who believe Wikipedia is a reliable source are ignorant to the process of fact checking. Anyone can post to, create, and edit content on Wikipedia. I think this effects journalism because when someone is unsure of what is happening in a news story and does a Wiki search, the potential for misinformation is high and may or may not influence the believability of the initial journalist’s story. I agree that we have been taught and raised to trust in authority, and to seek and trust experts, but I feel that society may be seeking and trusting the wrong sources. As journalists, we like to find our niche and become experts in that niche, but if we have not been properly educated in that niche, we cannot call ourselves experts, as many do. Keen does ignore that there are experts who are passionate, he focuses on the mass of negativity surrounding social media rather than the positive influences it has on our society.

Keen believes that democratization is undermining the truth, ruining civil discourse, and discrediting expertise, all while threatening the future of our cultural institutions. Honestly, I think he is a little far fetched. I think the path our society is headed on is a positive one, and I think our cultural institutions will adapt and become better than they were and are. I can understand that Keen does not like social media, but it is a way of life now. We are constantly plugged in and logged on, there is no changing that, until the next information revolution.

Keen needs to accept the fact that Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, and the like are not going anywhere. Instead of bashing social media, he could be constructively helping to find ways to improve on the credibility and accuracy of things posted, tweeted, and blogged. I think social networking is going to move journalism in a totally different direction making it readily available at the click of a mouse, it will allow more journalists to report, and will build a greater following of current events and newsworthy things.

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